by Lisa Motenko
This past summer I left Berkeley Hillel, where I was on staff for four amazing years, to head to Israel. I didn’t grow up in Jewish day school, or have extensive experience in Israel – so my time had come to spend a year immersing myself in Jewish text and living in the land of milk and honey. My goal for studying with the Pardes Experiential Educators Program was to take experiential education programs to a higher level by infusing them with real Jewish content and meaning. I have found this year in Israel to be challenging, inspiring, overwhelming, and comforting at the same time.
When approached to be the madricha for the new Masa-Hillel Fellowship, I jumped at the opportunity to take what I am learning in class into the real world. This six month professional development fellowship combines both theory and practice to prepare current Masa Israel participants to start their careers with Hillel. The fellows also receive personalized support during their job search, and are promoted to the Hillels that are hiring. (I wish I had this kind of a program when I was starting in the field!)
In total the fellows are experiencing six sessions and a Shabbaton. The sessions cover the key skills and qualities needed as a Hillel professional. I see the Fellowship as a process moving from theory to practical skills to inspiration. Let me give you the breakdown:
The first couple of sessions were dedicated to introducing ourselves, Hillel, relationship-based engagement, and Jewish text study in chevruta. In the middle session, participants were taken through the process of interviewing – learning how to articulate their values and make personal mission statements. They also spoke with Hillel professionals who are currently hiring – getting an inside perspective about the hiring process. Future sessions will involve learning how to use Jewish texts and content in our work as Hillel professionals. Fellows will also explore their own Jewish Journeys and establish ways to elicit these stories from others. We will wrap up the Fellowship with a reflection on how to use this year in Israel as inspiration for working on campus. And of course, no program in Israel would be complete without a pep-talk from our very own Avraham Infeld.
Each session is held at a different location in Israel – we have already been to IDC in Hertzelia, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, and Pardes in Jerusalem. This allows the participants to get a taste of what Hillel is like in Israel, see the different campuses, and meet the key players in these Jewish organizations. The Fellowship is a win-win situation for everyone involved; participants receive in-person professional development along with Hillel International holding their hand through the job application and interview process. Hillel will then hire professionals who are set up for success and motivated to enrich the lives of Jewish students! The 14 fellows that I am working with show incredible promise as Jewish leaders. I can’t wait to see them thrive as Hillel professionals next year.
Lisa Motenko, a former professional at Berkeley Hillel, lives in Jerusalem and studies at the Pardes Experiential Educators Program. She is Hillel International’s lead Israel-based supervisor for the Masa-Hillel Fellowship.